Humanitarian falls in love with Davie County

Published 9:41 am Thursday, March 23, 2017

Russell Suggs has a long drive to work every morning, traveling from his Bermuda Run home to Hughes Furniture in Randleman.

It’s the furniture industry, and you go where there’s a job.

But there was more to it than that. A lot more.

The road block was Davie County. There was no way a job was going to force him to move from the place he had grown to love. He and wife Sidniee came here in 1983. They raised son Will here. They’ve established some pretty deep roots here.

“Davie County is a good place to live and raise a family,” he said. “You get embedded in the community and you become a part of it.”


Sidniee is executive director of the Davie County Arts Council. And when that group holds an event, Russell will most likely be there – before and after – doing what needs to be done to make things operate smoothly.

They are members of First United Methodist Church in Mocksville, where he has served as lay leader, on the administrative board and as an usher. Their son started in a pre-school program there, they found it welcoming, and have been there ever since. “You get a friendship. Why would you want to leave?”

He is a seventh generation Mason, has served as Master of Advance Lodge and has been its secretary for the past 15 years.

And then there’s the Boy Scouts.

Suggs remembers growing up, when his mother was the den leader and the local Cubs met in his house. It was growing up under the tutelage of Joe R. and Ann Howard Suggs – one a dentist the other a pediatrician – that taught him the value of community service. His father served on local boards, and his mother was also active in community mental health organizations.

Russell and Sidniee’s son Will was into Scouting, starting as a Cub. Now, he is on the staff at the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, a place where he had gone with his father on an excursion in 2007.

Suggs hadn’t thought much about being a Scout leader until the troop that meets at Bethlehem United Methodist Church in Advance needed a Scoutmaster, and his friend, Roy Davidson, suggested to Suggs that he take over the duties.

He took the job in 2006, thinking it would be fun for a few years.

Suggs is still the Scoutmaster at Troop 732.

“The Scouts have a lot of fun and the leaders have a lot of fun,” he said. “They learn moral and ethical values. It teaches them things they need to know, how to give back, be a part of a community.”

He cites recent examples of Boy Scouts using what they had learned at meetings to help an elderly woman having a medical emergency, and how to survive being trapped in snow.

“They knew what to do because of Scouting,” Suggs said. “You never know when you’ll need it.”

Growing up in Asheboro, Suggs didn’t know what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.

He started attending Glade Valley Prep School during his teen years, where he met Sidniee. He graduated from high school there in 1971; he and Sidniee were married in 1975.

He earned an associate degree from Brevard College, came back home and went to work in a furniture factory making rocking chairs. His job: whatever needed to be done.

His work ethic kept him in the industry, working up to plant manager. He worked with Lexington and Baker furniture companies in Mocksville before they closed, and at a factory in Denton.

Jeff Allen, who presented Suggs with the E.C. Tatum Humanitarian Award at the annual Davie Chamber of Commerce banquet, knows him well. Allen’s son was a Scout under Suggs’ leadership.

He acknowledged that Suggs wouldn’t want to be in the spotlight, and he doesn’t. His family had to trick him to make sure he attended the meeting.

“But isn’t that how the most giving and truly honorable among us are? They’d rather give and provide than take credit or be publicly praised,” Allen said.

“It is necessary and essential for our society and peers to know how great we can be, how hard we can work, how much good we can do. These examples encourage us as to what we can and should do.”

Allen focused on Suggs’ Scouting accomplishments:

• planned and organized since 2009 a Merit Badge College for Scouts from three counties, attended by as many as 180 Scouts at a time;

• has Scouts earn community services hours on clean up duty for the Christmas parade and festivals in Mocksville;

• mentored 40 local Eagle Scout (highest possible rank) recognitions, driving Scouts to board reviews, facilitating weekend evening ceremonies for presentations;

• taking local Scouts to Philmont twice, 12 Scouts each time, for the experience that includes 12-day, 80-mile hikes;

• taking local Scouts to the Florida Sea Base; and

• taking local Scouts on a camping trip to Northern Tier, in Canada, in the winter.

“This is how he spends his vacation time,” Allen said. “He has touched the lives of hundreds of Scouts and helped shape them into the men they are today. This Scoutmaster does more things for more young men than I could list if I stayed up here another two hours.”

And like Allen said, Suggs doesn’t want a lot of fuss made over him.

But if it could help further the cause of Scouting, or church, or community service – he’s in.

E.C. Tatum, late educator, farmer, entrepenuer and family and community man for whom the award was named, was kind of like that, too. The award has been presented in his memory since 1995.